Sunday, September 15, 2013


I hesitated to post about our upcoming vacation because it goes against what some people think missionaries do. I decided to throw caution to the wind and continue the truthfulness about our lives. We have had a very full and stressful year, which is why my blog has been so quiet.  Our winter (summer for those in the Northern Hemisphere) school break was spent working in overdrive, while making sure the kids were cared for.  At one point Tim was doing three different managerial jobs within the IT department.  At the same time Tara was helping debrief the first Discovery team, while making new arrangements after flight cancellations and delays for the second team that was coming in.  We not only need a break for ourselves to prevent burn-out, but we need time to just be a family. I'm so grateful for a gift that was sent to us from one of our supporting Sunday School classes.  It was designated as "vacation money."  It removed any bit of hesitancy we had regarding our vacation.  Our God is so faithful in every area.

In a week, we board a plane for our much needed family vacation!  This will be the first time the rest of the family been out of PNG since we arrived in January 2012.  When we lived in the States, we'd usually spend our vacation time in Florida visiting our friends and family.  We'd throw in a couple of days to do something special while down there.  Vacations had a different meaning for us because our family did not live close by. After joining Wycliffe, every vacation also involved some sort of work while we were raising our initial support to come to PNG. Don't get me wrong, this was our choice, and we enjoyed it.  We managed to be able to mix things together to make the most of our time.  That was life.  Tim & I have an upcoming work trip that will allow us some time together, but that's for a different post.

We have all sorts of expectations for this upcoming vacation. There is one activity we all agree on- SHOPPING!  (Yes, my Granny would be proud!)  Our first full day in Cairns (pronounced "cans"), Australia, will be spent at one of the malls.  Actually quite a bit of our time will be spent shopping.  We'll visit exotic places like Target and Grocery stores (yes, in the mall!) and Crazy Clark's (think dollar store on steroids).  Not only will we not have to prepare our own lunch, but we will have multiple choices for lunch.  Each one of us could choose something different. PARADISE!!!  I know, some of you, are thinking I've lost my mind.  The rest of you know me too well, but you are wondering if I've brainwashed the rest of my family to willingly spend a day at the mall.  The extent of any shopping my kids have done in the last 21 months is yard sales and our store.  Neither present a lot of options. Tim and I have had a little more experience- a few second hand shops in the nearest town and some bulk grocery shopping in Goroka and Lae.  None of this compares to what we will have available on our vacation.  There was no brainwashing involved!

I have been downright giddy making my grocery list.  I can put things on it like cereal, milk (in a jug), yogurt, bagels, BACON, frozen dinners, grapes, bacon, cantaloupe, sandwich meat, fancy bread, and did I mention bacon?  These are things I can't get here in PNG.  Well, I could buy cereal, but at $10 or more a box, I choose NOT to buy.  The best part of this list isn't what is on it.  Nope, it's the fact that I'll be able to get every single item on the list!  In PNG, if we get more than half of the items on our list, it is considered a successful and rewarding trip.

We plan on doing some of the "normal" vacation stuff, too- going to the beach, enjoying the free touristy stuff (you'd expect anything else from an Ellis?), and even a day trip to snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef. We have our lists- Christmas and birthday presents to buy, treats for ourselves, things we've run out of, and items our friends need us to bring back for them.  The kids have money they've been earning.  We've discussed what each of us would like to do.  Each child has plans for their own date with mom and dad.  And like a good Type A person, I have my spreadsheet of stores to visit and what to purchase at each store; a calendar of dates showing what we are doing each day; and Google directions and maps with everything marked.  I also have given myself and my family the permission to change plans and "go with the flow".  The only things that HAVE to happen are the eye appointments and grocery shopping on our first day.  Shhh, we haven't told the kids, but we, also, plan to hit McDonald's our first night.  The last time they enjoyed a greasy hamburger was on our way to PNG.

Yes, we have an incredible opportunity to enjoy another part of God's creation- the Land Down Under. We will get to experience the beach, mountains, amazing snorkeling, and, of course, the malls.  I thank God for this opportunity.  We realize that this might be the only trip outside of PNG until we head home for furlough in just over 2 years.  We pray God will help us to make it an incredible memory for all of us!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Celebration

Recently Tim had the opportunity to travel to Wabag to participate in the Kickoff Celebration of the Enga Bible Translation Project.  You can read more about here.  We wanted to share with you more pictures of his time in Wabag.

The Enga Province of Papua New Guinea is located in the Highlands at an altitude of over 6,000 feet. 
Enga is the largest language group in Papua New Guinea with over 300,000 speakers and nine different dialects. While there is an existing translation of the New Testament in Enga, it is not widely used. There are four main reasons why the current translation is not used. First, it was the work of only one denomination and so the other denominations don't feel like the Enga New Testament is for them. Second, it uses a mixture of dialects, which makes it difficult for various dialect groups to accept. Third, the Enga language has changed rapidly over the last 25 years and so the current translation is outdated. Fourth, literacy levels are very low in Enga, and most Engans cannot read (especially in their own language). The result is that very few Engans have ever heard a good translation of the Word of God in their own language.

The celebration began with a drum corp.  The boys used old plastic fuel containers as their drums. 

When I saw the boy climb the tree to get a better look at the parade I thought “Zaccheus"

Every drum had a message on it.  It was either about Jesus’ love for them or their love for Jesus.

There was a reporter from the “National” newspaper (striped shirt) and other local and Provincial officials (camo vest)

Women from the local Catholic church take the lead from the boys with their traditional Kundu drums. 

Luke, the videographer, captured the event 

Looking ahead

The crowd kept growing until it was over a thousand people.

Looking out from the Grandstand at the crowd

We all were presented with a gift of a traditional woven cap

Dan and Luke from Newbreak Church were presented with gifts of sand art for the generous sponsorship of the Engan men

Several local Pastors from around Wabag

This is the largest primary school in PNG.  Even the local school with its meager budget pledged money to the translation project. 

Every celebration has food.  We celebrated with a traditional mumu- kind of like a barbecue. First out of the fire was the pig

Separating the layers of food from the leaves.

A Tree Kangaroo, who will one day become a meal

Many of the local church leaders stayed for a meal of pig, chicken, kau-kau (sweet potato), bread, vegetables and a Coke.

Everywhere in the market the people were friendly and wanted to have their picture taken.  These men wanted to show off their bags of peanuts.

This was one local flavor we tried.  Each one of the pods in the bunch has a nut inside about the size of a hazel nut and had a similar flavor.  They were selling them for 70 toa or about 35 cents.

This girl, who is the daughter of the guesthouse owner, helped us by opening the gate.  Despite her obvious physical challenges, she was always smiling.

We stopped for a while to visit the village of Immi, which is where Adam and his family lived on a recent trip.  This is outside the local church

Inside the church- no hard pews to complain about here!

The people Immi were captivated by Adam’s picture book chronicling his family’s 5 week stay in their village.

This is the house that Adam and his family stayed in on their visit.  

The black roof is from the smoke; it helps to seal and preserve the roof. The building on the left is the kitchen. Papua New Guineans generally do not cook inside their house.

Andrew gave me some toys to give to the local Enga boys.  He has a very generous heart.

The boys were very excited to receive the gifts.

Just one of the many Kau-Kau (sweet potato) gardens

Playing with the toy soldier from Andrew

Smoke rising from a Kunai grass roof.  This style house is the type most Papua New Guineans in the Highlands live in.

One of several rivers that flow down from the mountains

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Culture Stress

Several weeks ago someone asked how we would describe culture stress to someone who has never experienced it.  This produces a lot of different responses.  Someone said it was like being in a snow globe that had just been shaken, but once things were about to settle, it was picked up and shaken again.  I have related it to starting a new job in a new place.  But, like in the movie Ground Hog Day with Bill Murray, you repeat that first day over and over and over.  You come into the job thinking you know so much only to find out you don’t know much at all when it comes to the basics of surviving.  You don’t know where anything is, who anyone is, or exactly where your place is.  Eventually you settle in and start learning and start feeling confident.  With culture stress, it is that same feeling but exaggerated and every time you think you have it figured out, you realize you don’t have a clue.  Very humbling!

A few months back we experienced probably one of my most stressful days living in Papua New Guinea. We had to take Andrew to Goroka, the province capital city, to have his eyes examined.  Just getting an eye doctor appointment is an adventure.  We emailed the doctor to schedule the appointment.  Unfortunately he would be unable to take any appointments during our school break, so we had to schedule for the following Friday.  Tim was in Enga to participate in the Bible Translation kick-off celebration for Engan translation, so I had to make an executive decision and hope and pray he could take Friday off, too.  We planned to go with the father and son of another family that also needed to see the eye doctor.  We had appointment for after 2:00pm.  This presented a problem because it’s a two to three hour drive, one-way to Goroka.  We do not want to be driving after dark, so we needed to arrange a place to stay.  Two days before we leave we learn that the other family we are going with really needs to be back in Ukarumpa because their son is performing in his final band concert.  So, the plan changes for we will definitely spend the night to we’ll keep the reservations just in case.  We decide to leave at 8:00am to give us some time to do some shopping and eat lunch before going to the appointment.

The morning of the appointment, I check my email a little after 6am.  There was an email from the eye doctor.  He couldn’t see Andrew at the scheduled time because he had to leave that morning on a 10am flight.  Could we make it between 8:00 and 9:00- the closer to 8:00 the better.  (Stress meter starting to rise)  I wake Tim up; we call the other family, and make a quick decision to throw everything in the car and go.  Fortunately we had rented the 4wd Land Cruiser to make the trip.  The roads are rough, which makes driving difficult and slow.

As we leave Ukarumpa, I receive a phone call from a local airline.  I had booked a ticket for one of the Discovery interns, and his ticket was suspended.  They never got my email with the information confirming I booked the ticket.  All they needed was for me to send them the information.  The computer with the information and the internet connection is at home.  We’re racing to get to see the closest eye doctor before he takes off on a flight.  I tried to explain this information, but it wasn’t working.  After spending at least half the trip talking with various people (and using all the money & minutes I had on my phone), I finally was able to get his ticket released.  Unfortunately, he missed the flight and had to go on the next flight. 

We finally found the haus sik (hospital), which the doctor was located.  He had gone to the airport to check in and leave his baggage, so we had to wait.  While waiting the boys decided to pretty much memorize the eye chart.  The doctor did a quick examination of Andrew and was able to write him a prescription.  Fortunately, he did not appear to be as bad as we expected.  The next stop was the place to get glasses.  It wasn’t an easy place to find, but we found it.  They had about 20 or so different frames to choose from.  We were very grateful that he had the lenses Andrew needed in stock and was able to grind them and put them in the glasses that day. 

Finally, time for shopping!  As we are leaving the first stop and going to pick up the glasses, I get a text saying the above mentioned Discovery intern did not make it to his final destination.  Uh-oh.  I have no money on my phone to text or call back.  We find a place to purchase a card to add money to my phone.  We head to lunch, and I’m back on the phone trying to track down the missing intern.  While talking with the leader that is in Ukarumpa, my phone runs out of money, again.  By this time, we are at the restaurant, and I’m sitting in the waiting area talking.  The leader calls me back.  As we are talking, Tim runs out of the restaurant after the employees alert them that our vehicle was being broken into.  The rest of the time while in the restaurant, the guys take turns going out to check on the vehicle during lunch.  In the meantime the intern is finally located, and I begin to breathe easier.

When we go to get back in the car, someone comes to tell us that a bag was taken out of the vehicle.  Andrew’s backpack was stolen.  Fortunately it was pretty much empty.  It was a small price to pay, and we were grateful because much more could have been taken!

The drama isn’t over.  After we finish our meal, we have a couple of more stops to make.  Our final stop was at New Tribes Missions to pick up some equipment.  We get out of the car.  The only time during the day that we didn’t have to check to make sure the doors were locked, all the doors locked with the keys inside.  It took 4 missionaries and 2 missionary kids 30 minutes to get the car opened.  They don’t have much of a future as car thieves! 

We finally make our way home.  We arrive home exhausted and ready to collapse.  Unfortunately I still have to make some sort of dinner.  There is no drive-thru or ready-made meal for us. Boy do I miss Chick-fil-A and Publix!

As I'm putting away our purchases, I realize the case of tuna we purchased at the store was not the one we wanted.  Anyone want a case of 48 cans of hot & spicy tuna?  Yes, I was ready to cry!